Hey! It’s time for Round Four of the first season of Shuffle Roulette, a gameshow that broadens horizons and strengthens old friendships! If you don’t know the rules, maybe start at the beginning or just read ’em here.
In the opening installment, Mike was presented a batch of six random tunes from Mark’s fave-songs shuffle. Mike failed to correctly identify THE BULLET, but made a very reasonable attempt! Next, it was Mike’s turn to roll. Mark successfully identified THE BULLET! Facing elimination, Mike managed to correctly identify THE BULLET in the next round, putting pressure on Mark as we head into the fourth round of this best two-out-of-three contest.
In this installment, Mark has the opportunity to take home the SEASON ONE CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE and also five of Mike’s dollars.
Pet Shop Boys – It’s A Sin
Mark: My knowledge of Pet Shop Boys sort of begins and ends with “West End Girls”, with a brief layover in some album that they put out around the year 2000 that we would have to play in the record store that I worked in at the time. My opinion is fairly neutral on this act.
Right off the top, I find “It’s A Sin” very amusing. Partially because of the video, which is an amazingly overwrought period piece. And partially due to the extremely dense and dramatic production and songwriting. It’s a big swing, this tune!
I am digging it, though. Have to say. And you will maybe hate me for this.
When the rhythm of the song kicks in, it does so with kind of an “eighth note followed by two sixteenth notes” gallop on the bass synth. This, combined with the kind of melodramatic chord progressions have me feeling like… if this were a little faster, played on electric guitars and maybe sung an octave higher, this would be an Iron Maiden song.
And Iron Maiden is the greatest. So I like this. It’s missing a guitar solo, but it’s got this utterly amazing music video, so that’s kind of a wash.
Hahaha. I don’t hate you for saying that at all. I totally hear what you mean. A lot of Pet Shop Boys music is big and dramatic, which is the exact opposite of their biggest hit, “West End Girls”. I, personally, love the Pet Shop Boys and have since I was in grade school, though I didn’t dive into their album cuts until I was a grown-up. I’m guessing the album you had to play in your store was Nightlife? That’s a weird one to be mandated to play. It’s a middling album and came up well past their prime of popularity.
The video is directed by acclaimed British filmmaker and fellow queer icon Derek Jarman (Jubilee, Blue), so it makes perfect sense that the video stands out so much.
The Zombies – She’s Not There
Mark: I know this song! The Zombies are great! One of my fave groups of this sort.
Love the vocals in this band so much. What a talented bunch.
The chorus lowkey shreds. The bass is tearing it up all over this track. Also the keys work, including both electric piano AND organ, is all tremendous. And the songwriting is very tight and clever.
I don’t know what you want from me. This song is very good.
I’m with you on everything you said above. But I’d like to add a shout out to the truly excellent drumming on the verses. Great song from a great band.
Rochelle Jordan – GOT EM
Mark: Don’t know this artist at all. Off the top, the sound and vibe seems to me to be the kind of thing that the lead character in an early 90s movie would be walking into as they descend a back alley staircase into a club that is obviously not actually the same building, because it’s twice as big as it could have been based on the external shot. Everybody in the club is bumpin’ around to this song, and the lead character gets convinced to have a drink or fuck a vampire or join a gang or something.
When the vocals come in, it actually suddenly sounds very modern. I found the style mix to be a little jarring at first, but quickly warmed to it. I am actually really enjoying it, perhaps more than I otherwise would have, due to the sound palate and the fact that the rhythms feel really propulsive. Good voice, too.
This is the kind of thing that would be fine to have on as music in a compatible setting, but I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that I would listen to and give close attention to. But if somebody took me down a back alley staircase into a club playing this song, I would think “oh no, I’m going to fuck a vampire!”
Actually, let’s get real, I’m not going to be a lead character. I’m a featured extra at best.
Mike: So,what? You’re just gonna die and not even get to fuck a vampire first? Drag.
I don’t know if all the references to various 400 series highways gave it away, but this is a Toronto artist.
This music is made for a type of clubbing that I have just never taken part in, but I have found an appreciation for the music later in life. I like the sonic landscape, how all the different pieces fit together. There’s so much going on at any given time. Like how that aggressive hook is at times counterpointed with dreamy background vocals just floating around down in the mix.
Robert Glasper (feat. Erykah Badu) – Afro Blue
Mark: I wonder what the hypothesis for this experiment was?
This is immediately very pleasant. Warm and huge sounding bass bed. Really warm sound to the keys as well. Terrific vocals with lots of character.
This also has some moments where they mix up the rhythm that add a lot of interest. This is certainly jazzy, but is it jazz, strictly speaking? I don’t know what to call it, but I’ve heard some other stuff in this wheelhouse over the years and when it’s good (and I think that this is quite good), it’s a pretty special sound.
I do not gravitate toward music that could be considered “relaxing”, but this is pretty soothing in a lot of ways and I like it. So there.
Mike: You really nailed it with your questions here. Robert Glasper is a jazz pianist releasing albums on a traditional jazz label (Blue Note). This is the first of his “Black Radio” projects and thesis is an exploration of Black American music, through interpretations of the Black songbook, and originals performed with guest artists from a variety of musical backgrounds.
This track is a jazz standard, dating back to 1959. I know it through John Coltrane originally, but his is not the first version.
This album also has a version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, that I’ll mention here for, I think, obvious reasons.
HaHa Sounds Collective – Silk Rock
Mark: Hahaha. Great opening chord.
This is sort of still in a jazz mode, but is immediately more purposefully “challenging” and complex. I think I prefer the previous track on pure aesthetics, but I can really appreciate some of the the arrangement choices here. Big, layered production.
I will say, in the last post you (perhaps correctly) mocked Primus for including some self-satisfied pauses into “My Name Is Mud”… and this “Silk Road” song, to me, includes numerous passages that sound like they were written by people who are in love with the smell of their own farts. It’s very accomplished! But it also sounds like consciously “smart” music written to be such.
I actually like the song overall. If a movie or show were to use this song in its soundtrack, it would be a safe bet that it would be a movie or show that I enjoy.
I’m just sayin’… this is some smug shit.
Mike: I dunno, man. Firstly, I strongly disagree that this is more challenging or accomplished than the Robert Glasper. Secondly, I don’t hear the self-satisfaction here the way you do. Those beat rests they take really add to the texture and the drama of the song. It doesn’t feel like a math problem, y’know? What I hear here is an enjoyable approximation of a certain style of 70s music.
When this track came up in the shuffle it was the second time I had ever heard it. This is one I liked after it came up on my Discover Weekly playlist. When I looked into it later I learned that it’s a B-side alternate version of a song by Marker Starling (formerly known as Mantler), from what I can gather. So another Toronto connection!
Mark: Just chiming in with a clarification that I do not think that this is more challenging or accomplished than the Robert Glasper tune. Instead, I think that it is consciously trying to sound challenging and accomplished in a way that the Robert Glasper tune did not need to.
Nick Hakim – Cuffed
Mark: I love this eyeball picture. It reminds me of MADBALLS, or that skateboard sticker with the hand that has a screaming mouth.
Another cool, smooth one. You’ve got a vibe, Mike. And that vibe involves chillaxin’.
Love the crystalline and kind of vintage-sounding production here. No complaints about the sonics. The moments where it sounds like they’re playing with tape speed are very cool.
Great, charismatic vocal performance. Lots of cool chord movements. There’s a busy, kind of arpeggiated keyboard/synth part in the back half that I really love.
Oh man, I like the slowdown & petered out sounding outro as well. This is a very cool song!
I think I have heard this artist before? From you, maybe?
Mike: You have heard another Nick Hakim track through me. I believe you liked that one, too. Funny note about the cover, I first came to this album when the cover grabbed me at June Records (RIP) and I blind bought it based off the cover and a one sentence high level description from one of the guys who worked there (Pat, one of the best to ever do it).
Things I love in this song not mentioned already by you: the backing vocals leading into the chorus; the hand claps. Something about the placement and recording of those handclaps just makes this song for me. One of those small details that makes a track like this. Also, strong melody in the vocals.
Mark: This one is really difficult, because there’s no singular stand-out artist (like Prince from the last batch of Mike tunes) that I know you to love the most. I’m going to take a chance and say that THE BULLET here is the song that I enjoyed the most and I hope that you’ll feel the same. The Nick Hakim song, for sure. I will go so far as to fave that one on my own playlist!
Mike: I had a hard time myself picking THE BULLET from this batch. There are so many ways we can define THE BULLET, and I think it reveals itself in a different way in each group of songs. There’s no question, I think, that “She’s Not There” is the biggest hit/banger among these songs. But much as I love that song, when I reflected on it I had to go with the song that I love the most in my bones, and I’m afraid to say that your gamble has paid off. Nick Hakim’s “Cuffed” is THE BULLET. Congratulations, Mark.
END OF ROUND FOUR
Mike: I’m impressed with your intuition in this game so far. Can’t wait to see what songs you drum up for me to check out next time around. Til next time . . . don’t let the vampires bite.
Mark: I enjoyed this contest and I look forward to spending your five dollars! Of course, given that you’re going to have the chance to make your money back as we seamlessly roll into SEASON TWO of “SHUFFLE ROULETTE – MY FRIEND MIKE”, I probably shouldn’t go on a shopping spree right away.
Until next time! Vampires!